Friday, June 24, 2016

Wendy Cope's "From June to December - Summer Villanelle"

If this blog has illustrated anything, it is my ongoing love of Wendy Cope's poetry, particularly her villanelles. I hadn't given her a great deal of thought recently, but Wednesday's edition of The Writer's Almanac podcast reminded me just how much I enjoy her writing.

While some argue that Cope is mawkish, I've always found her poems to be somewhat biting under the supposed sentimentality ("The Orange" is the exception rather than the rule). On the surface, "From June to December" is the typical love poem, where the speaker's thoughts are preoccupied by his (or her) love. Indeed, anyone who has ever been in love (or in the first stages of a passionate affair grounded in lust) can relate to the line "I think of little else but you." However, several elements of the poem (such as the title and the final stanza) hint at a slightly darker sentiment.

The title is intriguing and puzzling, since it asks the reader to determine what the span of time is in reference to. Does it mean that the affair only lasts from June to December? Or does it refer to the time span that the feelings in the poem lasts?

Similarly, the questions that start the last stanza, "But is it love? And is it true?/ Who cares?", can be interpreted as an indication that the speaker is still in the giddy early part of the relationship and doesn't care what anyone calls it, but it might also indicate that the speaker is aware that this might not be true love but is okay with that realization. Additionally, this poem is more overtly sensual than "The Orange;" rather than pure giddiness, there's some decided carnality at play here that keeps the poem from becoming too sentimental.

Of course, I might be totally off-base here, so please feel free to share your thoughts below!

From June to December 
Summer Villanelle
by Wendy Cope

You know exactly what to do—
Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh—
I think of little else but you.

It’s bliss to have a lover who,
Touching one shoulder, makes me sigh—
You know exactly what to do.

You make me happy through and through,
The way the sun lights up the sky—
I think of little else but you.

I hardly sleep-an hour or two;
I can’t eat much and this is why—
You know exactly what to do.

The movie in my mind is blue—
As June runs into warm July
I think of little else but you.

But is it love? And is it true?
Who cares? This much I can’t deny:
You know exactly what to do;
I think of little else but you.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Looking Ahead to the 2016 Tony Awards

Next Sunday is the 2016 Tony Awards, and as usual, I feel more than a little unprepared for the show. However, I also think I'm better informed than I have been for the past few years thanks to a wealth of online resources (and because it seems pretty certain that Hamilton will be a juggernaut). Below are a few of my favorites just in case you are looking to do some cramming for the Tonys or in case you are looking for some great information on Broadway and theatre.

My go-to resource for all things Broadway is BroadwayRadio. I've been a longtime listener to their Sunday podcatsts (and Peter Filichia wrote the first theatre book I ever bought for myself). Recently, they've expanded their podcast, so they have one each weekday morning in addition to the one on Sunday. These daily podcasts are shorter (usually around 15 minutes each), and they include review round-ups for shows that have just opened as well as news related to Broadway and the theatre world. The hosts (James Marino and Matt Tamanini) have an obvious love of theatre, and their well-informed and strong opinions are always thoughtful and engaging. Additionally, BroadwayRadio seems to be acquiring new theatre-related shows on a weekly basis, so this is definitely a resource to check out!

Love them or hate them, The New York Times is a wealth of information on Broadway, and their Tony Awards section is extensive, with news, interviews, and videos. I also love following the theatre critics' liveblog and Twitter accounts during the awards telecast.

While this isn't a resource dedicated to theatre, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the interview Broadway producer Scott Rudin did with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. He had some wonderful insights into the backstage world of Broadway. Additionally, if you go into the Fresh Air archives, you can find some excellent interviews with other theatre personalities, including Stephen Sondheim, Sheldon Harnick, and John Kander.

Happy reading/listening!

the producers photo:  tumblr_lmcfy20RZX1qgskrr.gif
Yes, I know I posted this last year. And yes, I still think it applies.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Foodie Friday: Potato, Asparagus, and Tuna Salad

Growing up in the South, meat and potatoes/starches were a staple. I don't think I even knew anyone who was a vegetarian until I was well into my 20s. Luckily, time and new experiences have broadened my horizons, and while I still like meat, I've also found that it isn't necessary for every meal. Earlier this month, I had a lovely dinner with two friends who are vegetarians (technically, they are pescatarians), and if anyone could convince me of the wonders of vegetarian eating, it would be them. For this time around, they served a hearty salad that is perfect for summer, and I knew that I needed to recreate it later.

Going from what I knew of the salad (it had tuna, potatoes, greens, asparagus, green beans, herbs, and a vinaigrette), I worked backwards and found some possible starting points. The first recipe that seemed promising was this one from the BBC Good Food site. While I didn't want the salad to be warm, I was intrigued by the use of pesto as the dressing.

Epicurious also had a recipe, originally published in Bon Appetite, and it was closer to what I remembered. However, I don't care for capers, and I wanted to scale down the proportions and cut down on the amount of oil (seriously, the dressing alone has a cup of oil). I also decided to simplify the ingredients list since I didn't have the time to visit Whole Foods for Champagne vinegar and radishes.

The end result was a filling, fresh, and delicious salad that could satisfy even the most dedicated meat lovers. It keeps well and is infinitely adaptable, so feel free to play with the ingredients as you like!

Potato, Asparagus, and Tuna Salad (adapted from BBC Good Food and Epicurious/Bon Appetite)

For the vinaigrette (Note: You might not need to use all of this vinaigrette on your salad depending on your preferences)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (start with the smaller amount and add more as you deem necessary. If you like, you can use some of the drained olive oil from the tuna here)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (you can use Champagne vinegar if you have it. Lemon juice would also be refreshing)
  • 1 small shallot, minced (or you can use 2 tablespoons of minced red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pesto (you can forgo this if you like)
  • Herbs to taste (I used chives and parsley)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix 1/3 cup of olive oil  with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and the mustard until the mixture is well-combined.
2. Add the shallot and herbs to the mixture.
3. Taste the vinaigrette and add vinegar and/or olive oil as needed.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. However, you might want to go easy on the salt for now - the tuna will have quite a bit of salt in it.

For the salad
  • 1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and steamed or roasted and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3/4 pound of potatoes (new potatoes are nice!), boiled and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
  • 1 pint (approximately 3/4 - 1 pound) of cherry tomatoes, halved (I roasted mine in a little olive oil, but you don't have to)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 6 ounces of tuna packed in olive oil, drained (use more or less as desired - I use 6 ounces) 
  • 4 - 5 oz. of mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Other possible possible add-ins: red onion, cooked fresh green beans, olives, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, roasted red peppers
*The potatoes don’t have to be used, but, if you don’t use them, the salad won’t be as hearty (it would likely be more of a side dish than a main course). If you don’t use the potatoes, you won’t need all of the vinaigrette. Also, you could replace the potatoes with croutons or pieces of toasted bread and make this similar to a panzanella, but this won’t keep as well.
1.In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, tomatoes, herbs, eggs, and onion, and toss gently.
2. Drizzle on approximately 1/3 of the vinaigrette and toss to combine the ingredients and to evenly coat them with the vinaigrette.
3. Dress the potatoes (if using) with 1/3 of the vinaigrette (they will absorb quite a bit of the vinaigrette, which is why I like dressing them separately from the rest of the veggies). Add the dressed potatoes to the other dressed vegetables.
4. Flake or chunk the drained tuna. You can either mix it into the vegetables or serve it on top of the vegetables.
5. Dress the mixed greens with the remaining vinaigrette. You can either toss these greens into the vegetables or use the greens as a bed for the other vegetables and the tuna.
6. Top the salad with pine nuts (toasted if desired).